Heaviness settled over me, but I didn’t have long to dwell on it. Another person came through the door, holding a blood-soaked handkerchief to his hand.
For a moment, I thought the dude might bleed to death right there, but come to find out, fingers just tended to bleed a lot. The guy only required five stitches. He didn’t really say much to me beyond hello. The same went for the second man who needed his palm closed, having sliced it open helping repair a roof. A shot of lidocaine and a rather neat row of stitches later, he was out the door, replaced by what turned out to be a toothache, a case of indigestion, a bout of possible kidney stones, and what Viv believed to be an upset stomach.
“How do you know what to diagnose these people with?” Curiosity had gotten the best of me. “Not that I doubt what you’re coming up with, but kidney stones? Indigestion?”
“I’m a mind reader,” she teased. “Actually, you saw all those books back there? I’ve read every possible diagnostic manual I could get my hands on. I’ve been right for the most part.” Her nose wrinkled. “Well, except for that one time.”
She laughed. “The woman was complaining of an upset stomach, vomiting, and fatigue. I asked all the standard questions. What have you eaten? When was your last period? Does it get better before or after food? Yada, yada. Nothing there to give me any indication of what could be happening other than just a stomach issue. A few weeks later, she came back with the same complaint, but she’d gained a little bit of weight. I asked her again about her period, but that time, she said she couldn’t remember.”
I started to grin.
“One pee-on-a-stick test later, we knew she was pregnant. So, that time wasn’t my fault.”
I laughed. “Well, I could see how it would be hard to keep track of months here.”
“That woman was like five months pregnant. How do you forget not having your period for five months?”
My eyes widened. “Good point.”
Looking out the window, I watched several men and women carry baskets into the backs of the stalls. “Can I ask you something?”
“Is it normal that the people here aren’t exactly warm and friendly with new people?” I asked. “Or is it because I blew up a house?”
“Oh, everyone here is pretty wary of just about anyone.” She lifted her brows. “And because you blew up a house, can you blame them?”
“No,” I said and laughed.
“They’ll warm up to you.” Reaching over, she patted my arm. “Especially if you don’t blow up any more houses.”
“I’ll try not to.”
“Just don’t try so hard that you end up not doing what needs to be done when it needs to be done.” She rose. “I need a protein boost. And I have the perfect drink for you to try out.”
Fifteen minutes later, I found myself staring at what Viv referred to as her Lunch of Champions, which was a concoction of raw veggies, some sort of powder she swore wasn’t expired, and fresh milk. It looked like green slime. Green slime that had thrown up green slime.
I was this close to telling her about the children in the city when she took a huge gulp and then offered the glass. “Try it. It’s not bad.”
“Uh. I think I’ll pass.”
She pinned me with an arched look. “You are this alien hybrid who can blow up a house, but you’re afraid of a protein shake full of vitamins.”
Her lips thinned. “It’s really not that bad. Kat loves it.”
“Kat also just had a baby.”
I sighed, taking the glass. “Fine.”
“Great.” She bit down on her lip, staring at me. “Try it. Come on. You can do it.”
Lifting the glass, I didn’t even attempt to smell it as I took a tiny sip—
“Drink like you mean it.”
“That is not a real drink. You need to take a drink like it’s your first spring break.”
That made me snort, but I took a real drink, and the moment my tongue hit the thick, uneven mixture, my gag reflex woke up.
“It’s good, right?” she asked.
Not wanting to hurt her feelings, I forced myself to swallow and then spent several precious seconds willing myself not to vomit. Only when I was sure I wasn’t going to throw up on her, I said, “It’s, um, different.”
Her lip curled. “You don’t know what’s good for you.” She snatched the glass back. “But I guess you really don’t need vitamin and protein shakes, do you?”
I watched her down half the glass. “Thank God.”
Still drinking, she slid me a sideways look.
“I bet you had a great spring break,” I said.
She stopped long enough to say, “I don’t remember most of them, so I’m going to go with a hell yeah.”
I glanced out the front windows, feeling the shivery awareness along the back of my neck. I spotted Grayson and tensed. I hadn’t felt him at all today, but I now knew he’d been around, staying far enough away that I didn’t feel him. Which was mildly irritating.